article by site founder, Connie Rice
In listening to various people who identify as Christians, some recently seem to be speaking for God or have “heard from God” outside of His words in Scripture. From what God Himself says about that, we should really pause before claiming to speak for Him when He may not have spoken. With Bible literacy at its lowest level in recent history, it is becoming more common for people to concentrate on one or a few of God’s attributes and adopt worldly positions or say specific things will happen based on that perception. God is love, so He would not… or God hates evil, so He will… God reveals His attributes in Scripture, but if we concentrate on His love and ignore His holiness and justice – we can open the door to false teaching and acceptance (or even encouragement) of positions that are actually against what God teaches. If we concentrate on just His holiness and justice, we may come across as uncaring or legalistic or claim He will intervene in situations when He may have something else in mind. Studying God’s many attributes is a worthy endeavor. This is what God said (through His faithful prophet Jeremiah) about other prophets who were “speaking for Him” that peace was coming, when in fact Judah was facing judgment because of their sin against God and would instead go into Babylonian captivity for 70 years, after which God would restore them and judge their captors:
“This is what you keep saying to a prophet: ‘What is the Lord’s answer to you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ this is what the Lord says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord’. Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of My presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. I will bring on you everlasting disgrace – everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”Jeremiah 23:30-40
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend My people: ‘Because you have scattered My flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done’, declares the Lord. “Jeremiah 23:1-2
As Creator of our world and everyone in it, God is the sovereign ruler over the affairs of men and nations. He did not have to reveal Himself to us at all. The fact that He chose to reveal Himself to all who would genuinely seek Him reveals His heart for His creation and His desire that everyone would choose to have a relationship Him. He gives us free will – that includes the ability to choose whether to accept Him and/or obey Him. Obeying His commands gives Him glory and helps His children to reflect Him to others – to be set apart from the world with its deceptions and lies, so that others will see God’s love, goodness, and grace in them and seek Him for themselves. Our sinful nature can blind us, so it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit made available to us through accepting the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that makes it possible for any of us to live a life pleasing to God. Through Scripture, prayer, and the help of the Holy Spirit, God reveals Himself to us and helps us to understand our identity in Christ. Left on our own, we cannot stand before a holy God and expect a positive outcome. When we realize the depth of our own sin, it humbles us and makes us more and more grateful for God’s grace toward us. It’s nothing short of miraculous how God considers us His beloved and how much patience He has with us as we seek to be obedient to His Word and His call on our lives.
“God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted.”Psalm 47:8-9
“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it’.”words of Jesus – Luke 11:28
Some say that God is a God of love and so He would be condone sexual and other behaviors that He clearly spoke against many times in Scripture. Some use verses out of context to make a point and influence others or to try and rationalize their own sin. Others say that God hates evil so He will intervene in situations where evil seems to prevail. Revelation tells us how the story of earth and its inhabitants will end, and reminds us that Jesus is not only the Savior of those who place their trust in Him alone for salvation, but that He also has all authority. He came first as a suffering servant to take on the sins of mankind and make a way for those who follow Him to live in heaven forever with Him. He will retrieve His children (this could happen at any time or may not happen for a long time), fight evil, and make all things right in the end. John Piper’s article, “Behold, I Make All Things New”, explains this concept.
“The only trustworthy source of divine truth, guidance for your own spiritual growth, and instruction for the church is the written Word of God. No emotional urging or mystical experience can trump the concrete, fundamental truth God has given us in Scripture. Does God still speak? Yes, but not in an audible voice. He speaks through the pages of Scripture. The Bible alone has survived the test of time, and countless attacks from doubters, liars, and heretics. Its objective truth is proved every day in the transforming work the Lord accomplishes through it. Even the apostle Peter, who witnessed Christ’s transfiguration firsthand, heard the voice of the Lord numerous times, and performed miracles himself, counted Scripture as ‘a more sure word’ – the final word regarding God’s revelation.” (2 Peter 1:19).John MacArthur quote in article by John Sundberg for “A Light in the Darkness”
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”Ephesians 1:18-23
So what is the right response to the challenges of our culture? Speaking for God outside of what He has told us in His Word is not advised. Instead, we should read and study His Word, allowing it to speak to us, to better understand the things God has actually said and learn from the many ways He has dealt with situations throughout human history. God uses progressive revelation in Scripture – it may sound like a complicated term, but it just means that God revealed Himself and His plan gradually over time. Perhaps that’s why reading through the Bible chronologically is so helpful to many of us. We are better able to follow the history (like when we read a book with a timeline).
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.”Colossians 1:15-23
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”2 Peter 1-2
Understanding the basics of Bible interpretation (Hermeneutics) is also very helpful for those who truly want to know who God is and how He has worked throughout human history. Learn the correct context by asking questions of the passage or book (a study Bible or commentary can be helpful in answering some of the questions, but keep in mind that only Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit; all commentary is man’s interpretation and subject to error):
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”2 Timothy 2:15-16
- Before reading Scripture, pray for the Holy Spirit to help you understand. He guides us into all truth.
- Who is the author?
- Who is their audience?
- When did it take place?
- Where it take place?
- What were their circumstances?
- Look for conjunctions that connect thoughts (and, or, but, if, etc.); although this can make your reading time longer than you may have intended (especially with Paul’s writings – it is best to keep going back until the verse where the thought begins and read until there are no more conjunctions).
- Note any words, phrases, or passages that are repeated and pay close attention to them.
- Look for commands – sentences or phrases that start with a verb (action word); is this a command for me to follow?
- Look for conclusion words (therefore, so, so that, in conclusion, etc.); connects to what was written just previously.
- What was the Lord saying to them?
- Does it apply only to them in that time or to all people for all time?
- Is there something I can learn about God in this passage?
- Is there something I can learn about myself in this passage?
- Does a promise apply to just the people referenced in the passage? If so, it’s not for us.
- Does a promise apply to all people? If so, is there a condition to the promise (look for words like if, so, then, therefore, etc.)? If so, we can’t claim that promise unless we meet its condition. It’s sad when people conclude that God is not faithful when in reality, it is they who are not faithful.
- If a passage is confusing or seems incongruent, search out other Scripture to better understand the passage.
If Scripture does not reveal something, that is by God’s design. Although we may be curious, it is not necessary that we know. He had told us what we need to know. Confusion in and outside of the church at large happens when people draw conclusions and speculate on issues that are not clearly delineated in Scripture. Regarding the end times, Jesus has told churches where their strengths and weaknesses may lie, has given them warnings, and has promised them a reward if they listen and follow Him. God has told us the end of the story – that Jesus will be victorious over evil and that those who put their trust in Him for salvation while on earth will spend eternity in heaven with him and will receive rewards based on how they spent their earthly lives. Those who reject His free gift of eternal life face eternal torment away from God’s presence (their own choice). We are still in the church age that Jesus instituted before returning to heaven, so the role of believers is the same as He gave His disciples – to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The book of Revelation provides encouragement and hope to His children that good triumphs over evil in the end, but also spurs each of us to share His truth to a lost and dying world that desperately needs the hope and salvation that only comes through trusting in Jesus alone for salvation. We don’t want people to have to face judgment for their sins. If we spend time and energy focused on details not clearly explained in the Bible, it may cause confusion and division, as well as take time away from what Jesus actually commands.
“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. ‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Messiah! or, There he is! do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time’.”Jesus’ words to His disciples about the end times Matthew 24:21-25
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’.”Jesus’ last words before returning to heaven Matthew 28:16-20
When we see things around us that increasingly trouble us, this is hard to do. However, when we seek the Lord with our whole mind, heart, strength, and soul, commit to following Him in every aspect of our lives, and trust in His sovereignty and perfect plan – we can live with supernatural peace, strength, and even joy no matter our circumstances. This take intentional effort, but it is worth the trouble. Anxiety and fear do not come from Him and we should not succumb to these attacks from our spiritual enemy. The truth is, God could take Christ-followers home at any time (referred to as the Rapture) and the time known as the tribulation could be upon us – God’s patience may have run out because of the continual rebellion of mankind and nations. On the other hand, God could turn things around and exhibit yet more patience so more people can be saved – He’s done that before in history when His followers thought the end was imminent (reign of Nero, etc.). None of us know what God will do next and none of us know the timing or the details, so maybe it’s more beneficial for us to be about our Father’s business and be faithful to what our Lord and Savior is asking of us until He makes His next move or until He takes us home. 2 Peter 3:3-18 is a long passage (verses are separated for easier reading), but it instructs us on how we should respond in the last days (we are in the toes of Daniel’s statue). The end could come at any time or it could still be years or generations away (bolded verses below for site founder’s emphasis):
3 “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.
4 They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’
5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.
7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance [bold emphasis added by site founder].
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives [bold emphasis added by site founder].
12 As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.
15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.“
Let God speak to you through Scripture and allow Him to miraculously transform you. There is such a deep-seated peace when we turn our worries, burdens, and short-comings to the Lord. He has that for every person who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation and submits completely to His will. We do not have to live with fear or anxiety – He who loves us is faithful and His love casts out fear. After almost 30 years of following the Lord with all my heart, I’m still amazed that He chooses to use broken people in His Kingdom work. Let’s not waste any time, but allow Him to empower us to be vessels of His light in a world that desperately needs the hope that He freely offers. Life is short, but eternity is not.
© Constance Rice 2021